Wildlife Seminar: Winter 2016 Schedule

The Wildlife Science Group at SEFS is proud to announce the Winter 2016 line-up for the long-running Wildlife Science Seminar (ESRM 455 & SEFS 554), which kicks off this afternoon with Professor Laura Prugh. As always, the speakers will be covering an incredible range of subjects, from snow leopard conservation in Central Asia to salmon predation and pileated woodpeckers.

You can catch the talks Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Smith Hall 120. The public is always welcome, so mark your calendars and come out for some fantastic seminars!

Wildlife Science SeminarWeek 1: January 4
“Enemies with benefits: Integrating positive and negative interactions among terrestrial carnivores”
Professor Laura Prugh, SEFS

Week 2: January 11
“Top carnivores on the roof of the world: Ecology and conservation of snow leopards and wolves in the mountains of Central Asia”
Shannon Kachel, SEFS doctoral student

Week 3: January 18
No class (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

Week 4: January 25
“Carnivore research and conservation in the North Cascades”
Dr. Robert Long, Senior Conservation Fellow, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle

Week 5: February 1
“Linking camera trapping and genetic sampling to study elusive wild cats: insights into carnivore ecology”
Professor Marcella Kelly, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech

Week 6: February 8
“Alien vs. Predator: Determining the factors that influence salmon predation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta”
Dr. Joseph Smith, UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Week 7: February 15
No class (Presidents’ Day)

Week 8: February 22
“Estimation of an unobservable transition: From dependence to weaning in the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)”
Jeff Harris, SEFS master’s student

Week 9: February 29
Talk TBD
Jack Delap, SEFS doctoral candidate

Week 10: March 7
“Pileated woodpecker habitat dynamics in a managed forest”
Amber Mount, SEFS master’s student

SEFS Students Volunteer at “Meet the Mammals”

Last month, SEFS grad students Laurel Peelle and Jack DeLap volunteered in the annual “Meet the Mammals” event held at the Burke Museum on Saturday, November 14. It’s the only day of the year when the museum brings out hundreds of specimens from its extensive mammalogy collection for visitors to see and touch, and this year more than 1,100 people—a record high—joined the fun.

Peelle engages with a young scientist in the making.

Peelle engages with a young scientist in the making.

Led by Mammalogy Collection Manager and SEFS alumnus Jeff Bradley (’00, M.S.) and Curator of Mammals Sharlene Santana, the Burke Museum organizes Meet the Mammals for guests of all ages to explore species from tigers and bats to sea otters and even a live llama. Mammal experts were on hand all day to answer questions about their particular specimens, and other activities ranged from live music played on instruments made from mammals, to putting together a 16-foot whale skeleton.

DeLap has volunteered four of the last five years, and this time he helped out with the “Limbs & Locomotion” table, which featured museum specimens (skins, skeletons, print infographics, video) illustrating mammalian adaptations for walking/running, flying, swimming and digging. The leader of his table was Tamlyn Sapp, a former SEFS undergrad (’13) and student of ESRM 351 who is pursuing a career in zoo keeping.

Over at Peelle’s table, she was showcasing some of her research involving Canada lynx and snowshoe hares. Her display featured two hare pelts (one winter and one summer), along with a stuffed bobcat and lynx, for folks to touch—and the steady stream of visitors kept her busy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “I was hoarse by the end of the day, literally talking for six hours straight,” she says. “It was crazy but really, really awesome!”

DeLap fields questions at the “Limbs & Locomotion” table.

DeLap fields questions at the “Limbs & Locomotion” table.

It’s a much different kind of outreach than a public talk, says Peelle. Instead of standing up at a podium and fielding a few questions afterward, she got to spend six hours engaged in back-and-forth discussions about her research, and she learned a great deal through those wide-ranging—and often eye-opening—conversations. “For one thing, I realized that 99 percent of people in Washington don’t even know that we have Canada lynx as a native species here,” says Peelle. “It was cool to see people take pride in learning something new about their state.”

The crowd included lots of families with young children, as well, and Peelle loved hearing insights from budding scientists. One girl came through and looked at the stuffed lynx specimen on the table. She was feeling the paws and spreading out the toes with her hands, and she asked whether that adaptation made it easier for the lynx to walk on snow—like natural snowshoes. “She was so observant,” says Peelle. “It was really inspiring.”

Photos © Jeff Bradley/Burke Museum.


Exploration Seminar: Costa Rica!

For the past five years, Professor John Marzluff has led a group of 15-20 students on a month-long exploration seminar to Costa Rica. The course, “Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica,” is equal parts expedition and cultural immersion, and students get to learn about everything from local history and ecology to language and tourism.

Costa Rica

One of the group’s activities involves a day following one of four monkey species (including this white-faced capuchin monkey).

The day-to-day itineraries often vary slightly from year to year, but the trip generally begins in central Costa Rica around the city of San Jose. From there, the class heads south to higher-elevation oak ecosystems, then back down to low elevations and the rich tropical rainforests of south-central Costa Rica.

The next destination is the far southern Pacific coast along the border with Panama, including Corcovado National Park. “It’s quite a wild area,” says Marzluff, “and it involves a full-day hike along the beach to get into it. All the big cats are there.” They haven’t seen one yet, but the chance to spot an ocelot or puma is always there. This year, though, they did come face to face with several rare Baird’s tapirs on the trail. “There aren’t many places left in the wild to see them,” he says.

After a few days in and around the park, they start working their way back up the coast while exploring sea turtle breeding and other sorts of coastal recreational development (students and instructors also find time to fit in a bit of fishing, waterfall hiking and surfing here and there).

Marzluff’s co-instructors for the course are Professor Marc Miller from the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and SEFS doctoral student Jack DeLap. Marzluff focuses on the birds, natural history and tropical ecology of the region. Miller approaches the social dimensions of the area, including sustainable tourism along the Pacific coast, and DeLap works with the students on scientific illustration techniques—paying special attention to field characteristics while drawing the plants, animals and habitats they’re seeing and studying. Marcos Garcia, a local Costa Rican, attends to language lessons for the students and provides unique color commentary. (One other fun SEFS connection is that Robert Tournay, a grad student in Professor Sharon Doty’s lab, is the travel coordinator for the trip. He works with Tropical Adventures in Education, and he helps arrange local contacts and set up accommodations.)

Costa Rica

This year, the group came face to face with several rare Baird’s tapirs.

Course Takeaways
While traveling the country, students get thorough exposure to tropical ecosystems, learning firsthand how they function and the incredible diversity within them. In terms of wildlife, you’ll have a chance to see close to 300 species of birds, all sorts of snakes, sea turtles laying eggs on the beach, maybe even another tapir. You’ll gain experience identifying a wide range of plants and animals, including close observations of hummingbirds, and a day following one of four monkey species. “You never know what you’re going to see,” he says.

Central to the course, as well, is cultural immersion, and students spend a lot of time learning how people live in different parts of Costa Rica, including the use of sustainable, low-tech operations (human- and animal-powered machines), composting toilets and other creative innovations. “There’s a lot of ingenuity as an everyday part of Costa Rican life,” says Marzluff.

Spanish language education is another component, and Garcia travels with the group to provide general language support and Spanish lessons every day. You don’t need to have Spanish language experience coming into the program; the lessons are flexible to suit beginners up through fluent speakers looking to hone their skills.

Costa Rica

Don’t expect a cushy stay in Costa Rica on this trip, as you’ll be doing a ton of hiking and getting incredible access to remote ecosystems.

What It Takes
“It’s a great class, no doubt about that,” says Marzluff, but it definitely requires a serious commitment. It can be seriously hot and humid in Costa Rica, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you need to be in pretty good physical condition—or at least be willing to get in shape in the months before the class begins. You’ll be engaged full-time from early in the morning until late in the evening, from longer treks and night hikes to other tours and projects. You won’t be camping, but your lodging will vary from fairly high-end to rustic, as well as a homestay with a local Costa Rican family for up to a week. You should expect periodic heavy rains and unpredictable floods, and even a possible earthquake. All of which is to say, if you’re willing to live and travel with a group of students in these conditions, and you have a bit of an adventuresome spirit, you’ll be all set—and have one sensational experience to recall at the end of it!

How to Sign Up
Organized through the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and the UW Study Abroad office, the field seminar runs from the August 28 to September 19, just before the start of the fall quarter. Most participants are undergrads, but occasionally graduate students come along as well.

Registration is open now, and the deadline to apply is March 1. The course cost is about $4,000, which is essentially all-inclusive when you’re there, but students are responsible for airfare to and from Costa Rica. You can check out a more detailed description of activities and sites you’ll visit, as well as the overall application process and schedule.

So take a closer look, and sign up for an unforgettable month in Costa Rica!

Photos © John Marzluff.

Costa Rica

Jack DeLap: An Artist Among Us

If you’ve ever seen Jack DeLap lead a bird walk, you can’t help but feel his passion for everything avian. Watch him parse the sounds of the forest—bending his ear for the beat of a wing, squinting for each feathered clue—and it’s impossible to tell a line between work and play for him.

Jack DeLapDeLap is a doctoral student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). He’s been working with Professor John Marzluff for the past few years, and his dissertation research focuses on bird community structure and change through time in response to localized deforestation and suburban development in Western Washington.

Yet as much time as DeLap has invested studying birds, he says that’s only one of his two lifelong passions. The other isn’t exactly a hidden talent, but it’s certainly not as obvious from his present line of work: Drawing.

We’re not talking about doodling during a meeting, either. DeLap started drawing as a small child, and his father, Tony DeLap, was an artist and professor of fine art and architecture at the University of California at Irvine. He initially followed his dad down that road, studying fine art at Pitzer College in California, and then at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. His next stops, though, marked a gradual merging of his interests: studying scientific illustration at the University of Washington, and then earning a master’s in wildlife biology from Colorado State University.

Now, as a Ph.D. student at SEFS, DeLap has found a perfect outlet for both passions at once. Not only does he get to study birds full-time, but he’s also working as an illustrator for Marzluff’s upcoming book, Subirdia (Yale University Press, 2014), which will contain about 40 of DeLap’s drawings.

Jack DeLapOne of those illustrations for Subirdia is the drawing to the right of a juvenile (recently fledged from nest) American Robin (Turdus migratorius). If you look closely, you can see the bird has a tiny radio transmitter and antenna resting on its lower back above the tail, or synsacrum, and held in place by a loop of thread around each leg. The depiction illustrates a component of the research Professor Marzluff’s lab is working on with urban songbirds—specifically the dispersal and survival of juvenile birds in suburban and exurban areas.

We wish we had room to showcase more of DeLap’s fantastic drawings, but at least we can offer a glimpse of his artistic touch!

All images © Jack DeLap.

Jack DeLap